This story was originally written and published for the 2016 Sage Awards and for GEF Seniors Housing’s 2015 Annual Report.
In June 2015, the City of Edmonton decided to remove the bus stop that was located directly in front of Gateway Manor, where both Mary McVeeters and Shirley Baynes live. The City cited a lack of usage of the bus stop, claiming that fewer than one person a day used the bus from the stop, as the reason why they removed it. In a short letter given to the residents of Gateway Manor, the City explained that beginning September 6, the bus would no longer stop in front of their home.
“The next closest bus stop was three and a half blocks away,” Mary explains. “For those of us with walkers, that’s too far, especially if we’re carrying groceries home.”
Knowing that the City was working with incorrect information (Mary herself uses the bus almost every day), Mary and Shirley quickly got to work writing letters petitioning the City to reconsider its decision. But Mary and Shirley weren’t the only ones writing letters. Their family and many of the other residents of Gateway Manor quickly followed Mary and Shirley’s lead writing letters of their own.
“The bus stop gives us an extra sense of independence where we live,” Mary says. “That’s important for all of us here.”
The letter writing campaign quickly caught the attention of at the time Minister of Seniors Sarah Hoffman, who explained that this issue was outside of her jurisdiction, and raised concern with Ward 8 City Councillor Ben Henderson. Mary and Shirley’s campaign even caught some media attention, with segments about them being featured on CBC and CTV.
A town hall style meeting was held in Gateway Manor, where Councillor Henderson and other City officials heard directly from the residents why this bus stop was important. Shortly after the meeting, a review of the information that led to the bus stop being revoked took place and it was determined that an error was made. The decision was made to reinstate the bus stop, only now it sits next to Gateway Manor rather than in front.
Because of the leadership role that Mary and Shirley took, the residents at Gateway Manor only went fewer than 20 days without a bus stop.
“I wasn’t confident we were going to get it back,” Shirley says with a laugh.
Mary on the other hand, was more confident. “There were enough people upset that the City had to do something,” she says.
Mary and Shirley’s mission to make sure their neighbours and their community have accessible transportation options hasn’t ended yet. Their petition is continuing to increase the number of hours the bus that stops next to Gateway Manor runs and work is even beginning to possibly include a bus shelter for the stop.
“You can never say we’re bored,” Mary says with a laugh. “And this is what our community is like. We do what we can to look out for each other.”